Whether it’s big or small, it’s so important for an e-Retail business to have an awesome purchase path. Even on a site like Walmart.com, where the well-known branding is a strong factor, a weak page on a path can cause the consumer to feel wary about his or her purchase. On my most recent visit to Walmart.com, I noted the successful (and not so successful) elements of their purchase path.
Step 1: Log in
This first page in the path is what you see when you click “Check Out” from your shopping cart. A Verisign security logo resides at the top right-hand corner, which is a great reducer of consumer anxiety. The progress bar at the top continues to remind the user where he or she is throughout the path.
The relative simplicity of the page makes it a pretty quick read, but it could be quicker. The small line of text and excessive white space in the left-hand column (which tends to be valuable real estate on a web page) interferes with the read path. To quicken the read of this page, the “Sign in” and “Create an Account” boxes should be moved to the top of the page. The point of the page is to get the user to sign in, so why not make that the first thing the user sees? Finally, to reduce the anxiety of entering personal information, the Verisign security logo should be placed as closely as possible to those form fields.
Step 2: Shipping
Once logged in, the user is presented with his or her default shipping address. The page is separated into two clearly labeled “Steps”, the first of which is large and emphasized to draw the user’s immediate attention. The dynamically updated shipping information at the bottom is also a convenient and user-friendly feature.
One downfall of this page is the lack of prominence in the call to action button. It should be larger and centered on the page. Also the heavy black line above it seems to separate it from the page, which can cause visual confusion.
Step 3: Billing
Wow. So this step had to be the most confusing. The excessive imagery makes the whole page seem cluttered, and the eye bounces around the page. A banner ad for the Walmart credit card stretches across the entire width of the page. This creates a visual barrier for the user, causing confusion and friction. Further down the page is the “Payment Information” section. The user is presented with different options for payment. Quite honestly, it took me a second to figure out what I was supposed to do. The images on the left are loud and disorganized, and each payment option has its own button. That’s a lot of matching blue buttons, which are sure to cause decision paralysis. Removing the images to the left of the options as well as implementing a simpler, radio-button format for choosing payment type would greatly clarify this page. As previously stated, it’s a good idea to place the Verisign security logo near the credit card entry field.
Step 4: Security Code
This is such a small task, it probably doesn’t need to be it’s own page. It should be included as an expandable AJAX option on the previous page.
Step 5: Place Order
The user is presented with his or her order information, and is asked to confirm before he or she is charged. Some redundancy in information exists on this page, and it makes the page slightly longer than it needs to be. The bright yellow arrows at the top and bottom of the page do point the user to the “Place Your Order” buttons, but could also be distracting since they are brighter and bigger than the buttons themselves! Even though all personal information has been entered by this point, a Verisign logo on this page to reassure the user that the site is secure would be a good idea. The “edit” options for shipping and billing help to streamline the order process.
Step 6: Confirmation Page & Email
The confirmation page is good, straightforward summary of the order placed. One thing it is lacking is an effective incentive to get re-engaged with the site afterward. The only section which attempts to do this is the button at the bottom, which says I can continue shopping within the search results that got me to the Rock Band product in the first place. While this is clever technology, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Having already bought Rock Band, I would be much more interested in the most popular accessories and add-ons for my Rock Band game.
The email I received after my order is nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn’t have to be. It contains all of my order information, how to track my order, and how to follow up with questions or concerns about my order.
Overall, Walmart.com’s purchase path is functional but could use some optimization to streamline the path and make it a lot easier to use. After all…isn’t purchasing something online supposed to be EASIER than driving over to the brick-and-mortar store down the street?
What’s the best / worst purchase path you’ve encountered out there in the e-Retail world?